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Author Topic: Swann Family = 10 Children with MA at age 16! Book Review & Discussion Thread  (Read 175960 times)
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PokerDad
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« on: January 16, 2013, 02:36:26 AM »

This thread is an offshoot of the Depth vs Acceleration thread (itself an offshoot of the Moshe Kai thread)
http://forum.brillkids.com/teaching-your-older-child/overall-education-acceleration-vs-depth/

I finished reading both Swann books today and skipped my poker session to do the following write up.

The Swann family, from El Paso, TX home schooled their 10 children from the years 1975-2000. All ten children finished their master's degree at the age of 16.

Both books have Christianity as a central theme. I'll do my best to ignore this aspect. No Regrets dives into many of the fortuitous and misfortunate events in the Swann family, but spends the bulk of the time discussing life as a home schooled child. My 25 Years has some nuggets of wisdom, but spends very little time on learning and teaching. She outlined some nice principles to adhere to such as sticking to the same times each day, using the same room, and sticking to the plan as best as possible. She emphasized organization and simplicity, two traits that would prove invaluable in educating ten kids at home.

No Regrets was written nearly 24 years ago, but still seems relevant as a discussion topic today. The Swann's oldest daughter, Alexandra, authored the book just after completing her master's degree at UC Dominguez Hills at the age of 16. Following the book, she became a history professor at the El Paso Community College. Trying to visualize an 18 year old college professor is a feat unto itself, let alone actually accomplishing such a thing.

While the title of the book suggest an adult that is reflecting upon her early college degrees, the above information illustrates that it's just not true. She likely still has no regrets (hence the republishing in 2010), but it's not written from an elder perspective. Having said that, I find her writing to be quite good and I was impressed with it even before I found out she had authored it prior to her 18th birthday. When I was that age, I could barely string together three coherent sentences. Yet, she not only had to write her 80 page master's thesis, she was able to author a respectable book. I think this is the biggest testament to the methods outlined therein.

In an earlier thread, it was mentioned that all of this was achieved between the hours of 8:30-10:30. This isn't really true, it's just mostly true. As more and more family members started school, more of the afternoons were used for extra time and one and one attention (sort of like tutoring). These afternoons were always scheduled for school time, but went unused much of the time. Almost nothing to do with extra-curricular activities is discussed. I'm guessing they just didn't exist and socializing/play time was done just among the large family.

The family, with all its early education success, was not an EL family. Reading wasn't taught until precisely 5 years and 4 months old. Each child required roughly 6 weeks to go through a crude yet effective pattern phonics program. Once they were reading, they were officially enrolled in school. The younger children were home to see their older siblings attending school, so they had role models to follow and perhaps had the benefit of dinner discussions where topics from school were brought up. In other words, there may not have been any official EL going on, but I'm sure they had more EL than an ordinary non-EL household.

Today when I think of homeschooling, I think of what parents on this forum likely do, but I also imagine what ordinary home school parents might do. I had a neighbor that was legally blind and the short bus would come pick up her daughter every morning, and then the mother told me she was going to home school. This mother didn't seem all that intellectual herself. The wife and I both shuttered to think of the educational deprivation that would take place in that house. Judgmental? Yep. It's a shortcoming I have, and I'm working on it.
 smile

well, in 1975, homeschooling was a term that wasn't even coined yet. While it's the oldest and most successful method of teaching children in human history, in 1975 people only knew and understood compulsory schooling. Just prior to the first day of school, the mother had reservations about the ungodly environment and decided to try something else. She discovered that overseas military and diplomatic personnel used correspondence schools (distance learning) for their children while out of the USA. She found a school that seemed very regimented and was known for its high quality. This school was Calvert, located in Calvert County, Maryland. As a side note, Maryland schools have just been named #1 in the USA for the fifth straight year. Unlike some of the current online degree mills floating around, Calvert is an actual school with an actual campus with actual students in attendance. As such, it is and was fully accredited in the State of Maryland. Enrolling Alexandra meant sending a modest amount of money for textbooks and supplies (apparently they shipped every supply needed including paper). Calvert allowed the student to move at their own pace, and such, Joyce Swann found that by going 5 times per week, for 10-15 hours per week, year round with only holidays and weekends off, they could trek through a grade level in about 6 months. Since they didn't want to take time off (a concept worthy of more discussion IMO), they'd just roll right back into the next grade.

After 9 grades (K-8), they had to find a high school that work. Now they had a new problem that EL parents run into all the time - which is being academically advanced for their age. Normal high school was therefore out of the question. They found another correspondence school that specialized in high school dropouts (though they supposedly had a college prep track that the student could opt for). With cajoling from Calvert's administration, the high school took their child into the course, and she finished it very quickly.

The mother discovered BYU's distance learning program (which no longer exist) by chance.

By the time Alexandra completed her requirements at BYU, there was no longer any questions about her aptitude for college level work. Prior to officially graduating BYU, she enrolled at Cal State Dominguez Hills in their distance learning program. Because it worked, the other 9 children enrolled in all the same schools at the same age, therefore proving it was the diligence and the method responsible for the success and not some gifted child.

And that's the summary. Now for the discussion.

when I was younger, I did research some of these correspondence schools for college, but thankfully never really pursued it. Still, I hadn't thought of this method while pondering any potential homeschooling with a child. I can certainly see the benefit (curriculum all laid out, potential to have a legitimate transcript, instructions on what to do). The downside is that each grade level at Calvert is currently around $1,000 and you don't get to choose (as far as I know) elements of the curriculum. It's not like you can say, "I'm not fond of Singapore Math, I would like to use Saxon" or "this textbook seems dull to me, let's try World Odyssey" etc.

Not all of their programs offer transcripts. If you opt for the transcripts, I believe you're stuck with what they give you for materials (though you could theoretically supplement). Armed with transcripts, complete with grades and perhaps teacher recommendations, transitioning up the ladder would be far less encumbered than attempting to convince some dean to allow your little kid to test into an advanced class without any credentials (such as how Moshe Kai enrolled at his local CC)

There are several things we can take from the Swann story. The sure nuggets that stay with me are how diligence with a plan produces excellent results, and how the years of 0-5 are potentially less significant academically than from 5-18. I can only imagine what would happen if someone did EL from 0-4 years, and then did an accelerated pace like the Swann's. I could see someone getting a PhD by age 18 if so desired and with the proper resources. That's just amazing to think about.

My final thought has to do with the original question of acceleration vs depth. Alexandra certainly got both. I have no doubt.

Thoughts?

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Korrale4kq
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« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2013, 04:55:50 AM »

I have used Calvert for Kindergarten and I was really impressed with that part. But I do like the option to do my own curriculum. But I like the option of those transcripts and accreditation for streamlining things.

Something I want to add is that some states will fund Calvert for homeschoolers as part of their pubic education, which makes it free. There are also many digital/online public school options that are also free via the public school system. I know of 3 in Ohio. They also provide a computer. Calvert is also free in Ohio.

Search for a partner school by state on the left of the page.
http://homeschool.calvertschool.org/why-calvert/homeschool-curriculum



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« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2013, 08:36:23 AM »

I did read No Regrets a few months ago and was inspired by their success.  The mother sounded like she was a very organized and driven (not exactly the word I'm looking for??) person.  I have to admit that my innate laziness is something I struggle against as a homeschooling, acceleration believing mother.

I do believe that it is both diligence and a good program and both are vital to success - particularly when you have 10 children and limited time.  I think focusing on what we want for our children, what subjects we think are important and then finding what programs seem to consistently perform well is key.  The Swann mother seems to have stumbled (been led by God?) on to good programs but she then stuck with what worked and repeated the success with each child.

This dilligence theme was also expressed recently in the thread Blog Post: Christian homeschool perspective on Developing genius by Seastar.

I also find it interesting that people such as the Swanns, Robert Levy and also the Robinson family a(Dr Arthur Robinson) achieved early graduation with all their children even though they did not start formal 'schooling' until at least 5 years old.  The Robinson family also believed in complete independence in their work (widowed dad who worked at home).  In all of these families dilligence (set hours each day with no significant holidays) and a strong program were key.

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« Reply #3 on: January 16, 2013, 02:19:40 PM »

Just FYI, Calvert & Laurel Springs (another similar school) are having virtual open houses between jan 22-24.You can sign up on their website, Calvert has several dates available, I believe. Laural Springs has a decent "gifted" program in the later years. Both are sort of homeschool/sort of answering to a teacher private school from what I can tell.

I like the idea of pursuing a distance program for grades 1-5 or heavily afterschooling for grades 1-5, *possibly* enrolling them in a TAG private school program from 6-8, and then aim for a high end boarding college prep school for 9-12. A heavy emphasis on music, art, and sport in the afternoon will hopefully develop well rounded individuals with at least one area beyond academics where they really shine. I am possibly open to high caliber gifted and talented programs should the road lead them there.

« Last Edit: January 16, 2013, 02:25:27 PM by TeachingMyToddlers » Logged

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« Reply #4 on: January 16, 2013, 03:11:09 PM »

Thank you for the insights. I'll be sure to check out the open house if I have time (which I should).... and it turns out, I'm in a sister state with a Charter school for Calvert. What a great idea. I'm highly encouraged by this whole thing

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« Reply #5 on: January 16, 2013, 03:50:39 PM »

Thank you so much, PokerDad, for your review, and for everyone's insights.  I don't have much to add, but I appreciate your insights. 

For what it's worth, BYU has an online high school and college program, it's just under a different name now.  I do know a few people that recommend it, but then again, I am a Mormon and I live in Utah. That doesn't mean that I'm planning on that for my kids though.  I went to a rival school.  Go Aggies!  smile. http://is.byu.edu/site/

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TeachingMyToddlers
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« Reply #6 on: January 16, 2013, 03:55:06 PM »

Thank you for the insights. I'll be sure to check out the open house if I have time (which I should).... and it turns out, I'm in a sister state with a Charter school for Calvert. What a great idea. I'm highly encouraged by this whole thing

Keep in mind, even if your spouse is not open to full on homeschooling, you can do your homework and research the heck out of Calvert to make your after schooling activities mimic them as much as possible, even unofficially using their recommended curriculum, etc. There are other options of course, but this one appeals to me in particular because it has been tested, tried, and reproduced ten times.

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« Reply #7 on: January 16, 2013, 04:21:12 PM »

Jenene, thank you for pointing out Dr. Robinson.  I stumbled across this article that outlines what he did;  http://www.home-school.com/Articles/my-children-teach-themselves.php

What I really liked about his approach was that he emphasized the 3 'Rs and didn't necessarily teach the other subjects.  I tend to get overwhelmed by all of the little things I want to do, but he just focused on the most important academic subjects.  I won't be able to focus on math like I would like if I spread myself too thin.  Accelerate the main subjects and give them time and enough library trips to get the breadth.  If they do an essay every day, a wide variety of topics will ultimately be covered.  A child who can do advanced math, read with comprehension, and articulate their thoughts well in writing is a child well prepared for higher academics, and that's what I want.

Speaking of writing, I'm going to look into this book: http://www.amazon.com/Flying-Fingers-Learning-Through-Writing/dp/1888045191

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« Reply #8 on: January 16, 2013, 04:45:39 PM »

Also, in addition to researching teachers who made the switch, also research how to succeed to whatever you deem to be an acceptable level within the system. For example, enrollment at one of f the accelerated programs highlighted on Hoagies' Gifted website. Would enrollment in a highly accelerated gifted and talented program be acceptable to both you and your wife? If so, work backwards and figure out how to get there within the confines of her preferences. Just another thought there for you....now I need to go back to cleaning my house but I had to interrupt myself to come post this because I was still thinking about it.  smile

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« Reply #9 on: January 16, 2013, 07:02:32 PM »

One thing I made a mental note while reading No Regrets was Alexandra's comment about never writing more than 500 words (at Calvert or in highschool). I didn't jot down the page number, but I distinctly remember it. I believe it was in discussing her undergrad studies that she mentioned she had never written more than 500 words on any subject. I thought this had to be a misprint or something.

FYI, this post is officially 80 words.

My OP is 1,409 words

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Korrale4kq
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« Reply #10 on: January 16, 2013, 09:02:45 PM »

It might not be a misprint.
When I was studying ancient history we had to do a lot of reading and a lot of short essays. We would have to filter through hundreds of pages, then write a convincing essay in 500 words. It certainly was a challenge. More challenging than one might imagine. It also taught us to be succinct and to the point.  I learnt more about writing that class than I did through my entire primary and high school years.


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« Reply #11 on: January 18, 2013, 08:15:32 PM »

I would second looking into the Robinson program. We don't own the program, but that is the method that we use. Essentially the method is 2 hours of math (they recommend Saxon starting with 5/4 after student has memorized all math facts through the 12's), one hour of writing (they recommend copywork transitioned to free writing of one page a day corrected by the parent and vocabulary exercises, however we do a mixture of Writing with Ease and Daily language lessons previously we were doing Spelling workout but stopped after my son got through grade 4) and 2 hours of reading from their book list (we made our own list using their list, Great books, Ambleside online, sonlight and my own personal favorites). The books include history, science and classic literature. In the afternoons my son likes to use his snap circuits, is working through a chemistry and physics kit, is doing some programming with Scratch, hikes with dad and brother and participates in soccer and swimming (all of this is self motivated, just exploring his own interests type things).

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« Reply #12 on: January 19, 2013, 12:27:01 AM »

Linzy, that sounds perfect want to move to Australia and teach my kids  big grin

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« Reply #13 on: January 19, 2013, 12:55:53 AM »

I like the Robinson approach too.
I know I want to use Story of The world for history, and Builing Foundations for Scientific Understanding for science. I think I would add an extra hour for extra curricular. Or I could also implement those into the reading and writing hours.

Oh and we plan to school year round. And at least do reading every day of the week. It is what we do now.

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« Reply #14 on: January 19, 2013, 01:16:25 AM »

Jenene, thank you for pointing out Dr. Robinson.  I stumbled across this article that outlines what he did;  http://www.home-school.com/Articles/my-children-teach-themselves.php. What I really liked about his approach was that he emphasized the 3 'Rs and didn't necessarily teach the other subjects.  I tend to get overwhelmed by all of the little things I want to do, but he just focused on the most important academic subjects.  I won't be able to focus on math like I would like if I spread myself too thin.  Accelerate the main subjects and give them time and enough library trips to get the breadth.  If they do an essay every day, a wide variety of topics will ultimately be covered.  A child who can do advanced math, read with comprehension, and articulate their thoughts well in writing is a child well prepared for higher academics, and that's what I want.


Thanks Tamsyn for pasting that link on Arthur Robinson.  And thanks to Linzy for that recommendation and explanation of the Robinson method. I've been studying the curriculum in depth after Tamsyn pasted the above link. I found he's done more articles and here is the link-  http://www.home-school.com/Articles/columnists/dr-arthur-robinson.php. From the articles, I found all his 6 children have had outstanding academic success, thanks to his method. On his website, under ``Current Status and More'' here: http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/view/rc/s31p718.htm, he lists the following achievements:

`Matthew finished calculus at the age of 14. He is now 16 and working his way quite successfully through our physics program. (This physics is at the level of Caltech freshman physics.) Matthew is entirely self-taught using the rules in our curriculum.
Zachary has a doctorate in veterinary medicine.
Arynne has a BS in chemistry.
Noah has a doctorate in chemistry from Caltech.
Bethany is studying for a BS in chemistry.
Joshua is studying for a BS in mathematics.
Both Zachary and Noah completed their BS degrees in chemistry with only two years of college work - they skipped the first two years by means of advanced placement exams.
All of the children have performed outstandingly in their academic work.
Noah has been the most remarkable. When he applied to graduate school, he was told by MIT that he was their top ranked applicant. Noah's academic record was especially outstanding. Added to this, his GRE scores were 800, 800, and 770 - two perfect scores and a 99 percentile. The GRE is a sort of SAT taken by those who aspire to graduate school. Scores this high are very rare.
Other than academics, the children are also doing quite well - by our standards. The "World" would think differently.

Best Regards,
Art Robinson''  QUOTE ENDS.
 
 And I've been studying the materials and articles on his website- http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/.  I found this video from his website:
<a href="http://www.youtube.com/v/nTa5SgusO40&rel=1" target="_blank">http://www.youtube.com/v/nTa5SgusO40&rel=1</a> .


In that video, he talks at length about the curriculum, about Saxon Math etc., From 29.27 minutes, he says Saxon 54 was the first introductory book John Saxon wrote; and that Saxon K- 3 were simply busy work introduced by the publishers and padded out to fit the public school grade levels. That sort of reinforces my desire to start my kid on Saxon 54 as soon as he has his Marshmallow maths and other maths facts mastered. The Robinson curriculum uses the Saxon books for maths, and they start from Saxon 54 straight, and from one I've learnt so far from his comments and articles, Saxon 54 can be started as soon as the child has his basic math facts mastered. In his exact words: ``That book [Saxon 5/4] is very easy for a 7 year old to do''. From what I've seen so far on this forum, with EL children, Saxon 54 can be started much earlier; some parents on here are using it with their 5-year olds.

I love Robinson's emphasis on the child self-teaching himself with little parental and teacher intervention. He emphasises teaching a child how to learn independently, because the parent may not always be there to direct him. A child who knows how to learn independently and can self-direct his studies has higher chances of academic success than one who is always depending on an adult figure to tell him what to do. For example, for Saxon maths, the kids mark their own scripts, and correct their own mistakes. Wow!  Very good strategy for busy parents teaching more than one child. And I love his emphasis on unabridged books, classics, living books, and whole books. According to the video, such books (and other great vintage books) are great vocabulary builders, far better than contemporary books. Lots of Charlotte Mason in there.

I found interesting insights here: http://www.robinsoncurriculum.com/view/rc/s31p46.htm. And a Robinson Curriculum booklist here: http://users.gobigwest.com/rosegate/RCbooks.html. Plus more details here: http://users.gobigwest.com/rosegate/aboutRC.html.  And a review here: http://wholeintentions.com/2012/07/why-we-chose-robinson-curriculum/ . And this thread on WTM forums: http://forums.welltrainedmind.com/topic/217810-robinson-curriculum/

Anyone else with experience using the Robinson Curriculum (RC)?  I understand you don't formally teach science in RC until the child has mastered calculus. Linzy, can you share more details of how you apply it in your home? I find his method of teaching intriguing and I'm interested in learning more. Thank you all.


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